My software doesn’t get enough pirate’s attention.

Today I stumbled on an article by Daniel Jalkut about piracy. Daniel is also a Mac software developer.
He claims that piracy is not such a bad thing, because pirates will become our customers tomorrow.

A short summary of his article could be:
Granted, “Pirates are not paying our bills today”, but they contribute to word-of-mouth marketing, they provide some peer-to-peer support, and by choosing your product they help fighting your competitors. Eventually, they’ll “grow a moral backbone” and legitimately pay for your products.
He concludes that piracy should be ostracized as a bad social behavior, rather than fought like crime.

At first, I found his reasoning very interesting and mostly agreed with him. But when I tried to apply it to SimpleMovieX, my main product, I discovered a more complex reality.

Like every software worth two pennies, SimpleMovieX has been cracked for a long time. My protection scheme is extremely simple, and I guess that any cracker with the right tools can break it in five minutes. Making it more difficult would be a loss of time, it would be cracked anyway. So this protection scheme is just aimed at reminding users of demo version that it’s a 30$ product, that they can buy it, receive my eternal gratitude, and enjoy a world-class technical support.

So as I’m not fighting piracy seriously, does it make me a supporter of Daniel’s reasoning? Not so fast!

SimpleMovieX is not pirated enough to see the benefits that Daniel mentions. Word-of-mouth marketing, peer-to-peer support, fighting competitors, and finally getting future customers, all this depends on the pirates massively adopting your software.
You will say: Pirates don’t choose it because it’s a bad quality product with too few features. Wrong! They don’t choose it because it’s competing in a completly distorted “market”.

I’ll take an example: If you like cars, and you’re a thief, you’ll probably pick the most exclusive cars. A Porsche is not more difficult to steal as a Ford, but it’s much more rewarding, and the cost is the same: Nothing.
With software piracy, the same happens: If you can get cracked versions of Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere, and SimpleMovieX, which one would you use? High-end video editing or entry-level video editing? The fact that SimpleMovieX costs 30$ versus over 500$ for the other ones, doesn’t matter for the pirate crowd. Not to mention freeware products, iMovie, and QuickTime Pro with hundreds of registration keys “in the wild”.

But it’s not an excuse. I’m willing to fight for SimpleMovieX anyway. I’ll continue improving it, differentiating it, and I’ll try to turn this distorted market to my advantage.
It’s clear that a certain type of entry-level software, often high-quality products, developed by small developers, is getting hurt harder. If the positioning is: offer less features but be affordable, then you get little pirate’s attention.

Like it or not, freeware and piracy are two forces that are shaping the software market. They decide to what extent a product can be successful, or said in other words, they decide what products get developed.
I’ll learn the lesson for my next product, and one of design goals (not the first one!) will be to get maximum pirate’s attention.
A market shaped by free products and future customers cannot but be a passionate one!

1 Comment

Sam GoreJuly 21st, 2007 at 7:44 pm

“A market shaped by free products … cannot but be a passionate one!”

Um, you must never have heard of a little OS called “Linux”, a programming language called “PHP”, or a modest web server called “Apache”. Oh, wait! You use the last two for your own server! I guess the guys and gals working on Apache and PHP are just not as passionate as dedicated shareware programmers like yourself.